Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Literary Liberia

In the past year there have been several books published by Liberians who want to tell the story of their country's recent difficult history. We can recommend the following for those who want some insight and for just good, interesting and, at times gripping, reading.

Liberian President Johnson-Sirleaf has recently been on tour here in the U.S. touting her just-published memoir, This Child Will be Great. Her book has had some mixed reviews but there is no disagreement on the fact that she is an amazing, strong and determined woman. Her life story is remarkable and from that standpoint alone her memoir is undoubtedly worth reading. I have to confess I have not read it yet but have read every review I can find and heard every interview with her on television and radio. Can't wait to read the book.

Blue Clay People, by William Powers is written by an American who lived in Liberia working for an NGO shortly after the war ended. It gives a good account of Liberia from an American's perspective. I found much in common with Powers account of his impressions and his response to Liberia. Also had some differences of opinion and reaction but the book is well-written and very interesting.

The House at Sugar Beach, by Helene Cooper is a fascinating account of Helene's childhood in Liberia which ended abruptly with political turmoil and brutality. Cooper explains the Americo-Liberian, Congo, Country social class system that exists in Liberia from her own point of view as one who was of the privileged elite. Her explanation was very helpful for me in terms of understanding how the political situation in Liberia evolved. Cooper and LOEP Board Member Brenda Bush-Weeks grew up together in Liberia and attended school together there.

Redemption Road, by Elma Shaw is a novel (unlike those mentioned above). It takes on the difficult subject of recovery from war in Liberia. I have not read this one yet either but Rev. Emile Sam-Peal highly recommended it and said he could not put it down. Of course, his perspective is entirely different from what mine would probably be but all other reviews concur. It is the next one on my list.

For several years now I have been reading all things Liberia which has been mostly somewhat dry history, highly charged political rhetoric or ex-pat blogs. There just has not been that much available until now. The 14 years of war and the long period of political upheaval leading up to the war has changed that and a new genre of Liberian literature seems to be developing. There are incredible stories everywhere in Liberia. War survival, political turmoil and even ex-pat accounts of good works are all more interesting with a Liberian backdrop - probably because the incredible stories are true.

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